You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2008.

Ha! Bet you never thought I would actually post two days in a row! Fooled you! (Sorry, Kelly.)

So far, I would have to say the score is Doctor-1, Google-1. Yes folks, it’s a tie.
I went in to Urgent Care. This is the way my new doctor’s office deals with people who actually need to see a doctor, as opposed to those who think it might be nice to make an appointment with a doctor for the end of summer, just in case. I assume this is for the hypochondriacs among us, who presume that Labour Day Weekend will find them feeling just a little under the weather and needing to spend 30 minutes in stiff, matching plaid chairs, paging through two-month-old magazines, to lull them into a sense of importance and well-being. I mean, who else wants to schedule out that far? It’s not like a dentist, where you schedule your 6-month check up (well you might…I usually go 2 years between visits myself), or when the kids were babies and had to be checked every few months so that the doctor could tell me they still weren’t on the charts and was I sure I was making enough milk for two? (Which I was. I was a milk-producing machine! They’re just little.)
Where was I? Oh yes, trying to see a doctor. I could either go in July 21, which you might realize is over 3 weeks from now, or go into the Urgent Care side of the office. The good news is that if you go in before 5, you only have to pay your normal $20 co-pay, and for no extra money I could forget my book in the car and read either Parenting (How to Deal with the Stress of Christmas) or Men‘s Vogue (“Auto-Erotic: Men Love Their Cars). How I love American health care. How I regretted leaving my book in the car.
This morning, when I woke up, I thought I might be feeling better. My body, in this respect, is like your car. You know how your car always makes that horrible noise except when there is a mechanic near enough to hear? You take your car to the garage, and it won’t make that noise, will only purr nicely, until you’ve given up and are a block or two away, when the engine falls out with a big clunk! Or, conversely, it starts making that noise again, so you turn around and drive back to the mechanic, upon which it stops making that noise. This is usually my body, which will be horribly sick until I finally break down and decide that yes, today I will go to the stinking doctor already so shut up with the horrible stomach cramps. Then it will cheer up, like a spoiled teenager given her own way at last.
I was conflicted, however. I had basically told you all that I would go to the doctor today, and you had all encouraged me to go. Should I go? Or not? I waited till after lunch but didn’t take ibuprofen. By that time, my headache was assuming mythic proportions and my temperature was over 100. I went.
My doctor was very nice. He agreed that running a fever for 2 weeks was a good reason to come into the office. He asked me lots of questions, took lots of scribbly little notes. He and I spent over 2 hours together. The result? The doctor is stumped. He did a very thorough exam–one of the most thorough I’ve had in years. Nothing. So he did tests–urine, pelvic, chest x-ray, blood work. Nothing. I’m totally healthy, except for this fever and headache. “It’s good news and bad news,” was how he put it.
So tonight, I still have a headache. I’m still running a low-grade fever. Other than that though, I’m totally healthy–fantastic, even. In other words, it’s neither an exotic cancer or the flu. So maybe the doctor should have a point higher than Google. He was really nice, and called me with the results of my tests late on a Friday night.
My vote? Here’s a fun thought–wouldn’t it be ironic if I lived in Africa for 6 years and never got malaria, and then I got it in California? (Note: the dr. doesn’t think it’s malaria, since the symptoms aren’t quite right, but it is a possibility. He brought it up. And it’s got my vote.)
So, what do you think it is?

Ok. Enough is enough. I’m going to go to the doctor. I have now been running a low-grade fever for 2 weeks, and according to Google, may quite possibly have a rare and exotic (not to mention highly untreatable) form of cancer. Or it could be the flu. Google isn’t quite sure.
I have never had much luck researching my symptoms on Google. I try to be specific, but I usually end up with 476 options. I much prefer curling up in bed with my old standby, Where There Is No Doctor, which assumes (I’ve mentioned this before) that while there may be no doctor, there is a well-stocked pharmacy nearby. I love that book, which helps you figure out if that tiny lump on your chin could be developing into a zit or a goiter, or learn if your abdominal pain is more likely to be giardia, amoebic dysentery, or just too many dates consumed the night before. Unfortunately my copy is in storage.
This morning I realized anew another reason I’m moving to Africa: no three-week waiting lists to see a doctor, no being shunted off to “urgent care” just because you want to be seen before August, no reams of paperwork to fill out about if any of your great-uncles ever had diabetes or if your childhood piano teacher was tubercular. Admittedly, had any major health crisis have happened to any of us in Mauritania, we would have left–flown to France, most likely, and we were thankful to have this option. But I think we all enjoyed living in a simpler time, as it were. I was prone to these weird little sinus infections that had no drainage, (from when sand got stuck in my head) and when I got one I’d just pop into the local pharmacy and diagnose and pick up my own course of antibiotics, which ran about $8 or so.
Of course, I’m painting an idealized version here. We were fine; healthy, well-fed, nutrition-conscious and aware as we were, but the situation for the local people was often hugely different. Friends told us that it was safe to go to the National Hospital only if you were already dead, and it’s true that horrific stories came out of that place, which has a children’s graveyard right on site where they bury all those infant mortality statistics.
The kids have been to sports camp every morning this week, coming home sunburnt and sweaty, their excitement segueing into a certain fractiousness by evening. Ilsa’s on a baking spree–right now she is trying her hand at double chocolate cupcakes, and earlier this week it was chocolate chip cookies. Why don’t they ever want to make exciting salads? Why?
I continue to keep Kroger brand generic Advil in good shape financially, but tomorrow I am venturing into darkest suburbia in search of Urgent Care. Tomorrow: I’ll let you know how it goes and also? I’ve been reading, and I’ll share it all with you. No really. No weird fever dreams this time, promise.

I can’t seem to get better, and now I’m running a fever.

Not to worry though. Ilsa made me a card. It is very cute, decorated with stickers and fancy calligraphy. It says:

“Get well soon! Please make nachos for supper. Thank you!”

If that doesn’t make me feel better, I guess nothing will. At least she’s polite, so I know I’m succeeding on one level.

Last night, we were driving home down the Columbia River Gorge at twilight. The light reflected off the silvery river, deepening the shadows of the rocks. We were quiet, tired after a long afternoon of exploring the region around Hood River, crossing the river into Washington and driving up into the hills, and visiting an old train depot. My brother is in town from Iowa (no, they don’t have flooding where they are but it was close; they could see it) and this is what he wanted to do; drive down the Gorge, visit some spots in the shadow of the mountain.
We are home from California and this will be another boring blog post because not much is up. I caught a bit of a stomach bug in California and it hasn’t entirely left me, leaving me just a bit sick-feeling but not actually sick.
In addition, our landlord is planning to sell this charming duplex on the edge of a tiny protected wetlands/forest, where we’ve lived so happily these past 9 months, so we had to do some deep cleaning to get it photo-ready. We like to pretend that we don’t accumulate junk, but it’s a lie. I took 5 huge bags of clothes to Goodwill, happily dumping my junk for someone else to deal with. I was ruthless–I got rid of perfectly cute and stylish clothes that fit just because the kids never wear them, and I’m not going to pack them for Morocco. Ilsa wanted to throw things away and I had to remind her–this isn’t Africa. No one will go through our garbage and salvage things with a bit of use in them, ingeniously finding ways to use things that we, in our comfort and wealth, would never have thought of.
There’s been a lot of emphasis in the media (a term that now includes blogs; why not?) lately on being frugal, saving money. I read with some bemusement a series in the Oregonian on how different local families were cutting their food budgets. It was all such basic stuff. Oh look, we can’t go eat out all the time…surprise! Oh look, we can’t buy brand name stuff for everything, and we need to comparison shop…surprise! Some people, and I know this will shock you, actually are eating leftovers for lunch, instead of buying out. Yes, these are desperate times.
I read a post recently by a woman who consciously lives frugally, who wrote about how people respond to her. She wrote of sharing a large Coke between her family, and how some others felt so sorry for them that they responded by giving them a toy from a children’s meal. Oookay. We never buy our kids the children’s meals. I think they are ridiculously overpriced and the last thing we need is more junky plastic toys to clutter up our home. But, thankfully, no one has reacted in horror to this form of child abuse by forcing toys on my children.
I heard a woman on NPR the other night, moaning about how much she misses eating lots of meat every day, the gentle, sympathetic voice of the interviewer murmuring supportively. I’m not being snide: the subject was treated as if this woman had lost her entire family in a catastrophic event, not that she missed going out for pizza and buying new clothes whenever she felt like it.
I understand. There are many people who would look at me, at the things I complain about not having or missing, and think, “Oh poor little rich girl. If she only knew my circumstances.” So I don’t mean to be as snotty-faced as I sound.
But I remember once, when Aicha commented on how rich I was. It surprised me. Aicha is well-off; her family is well-connected and she has travelled quite a bit for a Mauritanian woman, her mulaffas are new and stylish and her heels high and sparkly. Her gold earrings and bracelets show that she is a treasured wife. I was used to poorer Mauritanians commenting on my wealth as a way of benefiting from my middle-class guilt, but Aicha had never asked me for anything. So I asked what she meant.
She elaborated what it means to be rich. “You own your car,” she told me. “If you have a problem (such as needing to go to the doctor), you can solve it yourself without needing to go to anyone else for help. You eat meat every day.” That was a simple definition of what it meant, not to be comfortable, but to be rich.
So while I recognize that things are scary for Americans these days, I do think a little perspective could help us not panic.
And, on the plus side, at least if we have a worldwide famine, I don’t need to worry about my diet!

Well I’ve learned some Spanish this year in spite of myself. Tonto means idiot. Silencio means PLEASE BE QUIET RIGHT NOW. Hasta la vista means hurry the view, I believe.
On our summer vacation, we did the following:
Spanish.
More Spanish.
A whole lotta Spanish.
We did Spanish till our eyes crossed. We learned the names for many animals and colours; we practiced rolling our rrrrrrs. About the best thing about it was that, since we’re out in the California desert, it was good to stay inside during the day, dropping our h’ s and hiding out from the brutal, baking sun. And when we’d finished, in the cool of the day, we’d go swimming, plunging into the turquoise water and letting the conjugations of the verb hacer just float right away, which, yes, meant we had to learn them again the next day. At night when I lay in bed, I would hear Spanish words and intonations floating through my mind, without understanding them. (Don’t panic: this happened to me when I was first learning French too.)
On Wednesday, we finished the last exam. We posted it to France. And then we went straight on to see the new Indiana Jones movie, then took the kids out for ice-cream. We’re on vacation! (blah blah except for Arabic blah blah mutter)
Last night, I had the first of what I’m sure will be many CNED nightmares, but at least on waking I knew it was but the stuff of which dreams are made–all in my head.

So, you want to know, what did I think of the new Indy movie? It rather reminded me of the newer 3 Star Wars movie–more emphasis on special effects than on plot. The acting was sometimes stilted. Parts of it were downright silly and made absolutely no sense, such as why the red ants were eating some people but then just magically vanished when it was time to move on to something else. Also, I wondered how present-day South Americans would feel to learn that their great architectural past was provided by aliens, not by their ancestors. Teensy bit racist, anyone? But in spite of its flaws, it was still a fun movie. I’d give it a C, if I still gave out grades, which I don’t since I’m on vacation now (see above).

Yesterday, the grandparents took us all to the San Diego Zoo, which would like you to know that it is world-famous and more than just a zoo, also a research and breeding facility. It was a great, but exhausting, day. The weather was perfect; sunny but not too hot, with a refreshing breeze. We tramped all over, saw lots of animals, and took lots of pictures. Including some of camels! These were a different kind of camel though; they had 2 humps and hanks of hair hanging off them.

I’m not going to post any more of Donn’s until I figure out how to add a watermark, as I’m tired of finding pictures stolen from my blog popping up unattributed on other people’s sites. In an attempt to show you some of mine, I have spent over an hour now deleting and reloading software and sizing pictures and trying to upload them, but wordpress is apparently having issues. I will try again tomorrow.
Today, we are preparing for tomorrow, which is the family celebration of my in-law’s 50th Wedding Anniversary. It’s low-key, a fun family barbecue and swimming party (how red can we get? Any guesses?), and then for their actual anniversary, in August, we’re sending them on a little cruise, just the two of them. It’s what they wanted: no big parties, nothing too formal. Ok by me, although I’ve already let Donn and the kids know that if we make it that far, I want the big party and I want to get a new dress and shoes out of it.

My good-but-busy friend Nancy tagged me for a meme. I tend to not like memes, since I harbour a secret conviction that no one else likes to read them, even though I am quite happy to read them when other people do them.
But right now is a perfect time for me to do a meme, and if you really don’t care to learn anymore about ME! you can skip this post. Best of all, I won’t even know. How’s that for guilt-free?
I’m sitting in the in-laws’ living room, playing an extract from the opera Carmen on my laptop. The twins are supposed to decide what instrument the voices of the women are imitating. Yes, we are finally taking that last music exam for CNED, and since I’m stuck sitting here playing them extracts off their music CD, I might as well type rather than just stare at the flowing colours of the Windows Media Player. My in-laws are sitting in their two stuffed armchairs, between them a marble-topped table with a lit lamp now cluttered with today’s paper, which they are sharing between themselves. They are discussing Dobie Gillis, a TV show that aired before I was born and starred Gilligan, only before he was Gilligan. I don’t know what prompted this, but it makes for an interesting time; the CD playing, the twins asking questions and writing industriously, the in-laws discussing 60s TV shows and then telling each other which comic strips are good today.
So, on to the meme.
Here are the rules:
1. Each player answers questions about themselves.
2. At the end of the post, tag 5 people by posting their names.
3. Go to their site/blog and leave a comment telling them they’ve been tagged. Invite them to your site/blog so they can read the tagged post.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve completed your tagged post.

Right, I think I can handle that! Onward and upward! (Kids are reading Narnia again; NOT going to see the movie if I can help it!)

1. What were you doing 10 years ago?
Let’s see, it’s 2008 now. So 1998. Um…the twins were one so that wasn’t the year we took them to Hawaii when they were only 4 months old to meet the in-laws, who used to live there before they moved to Hemet (pronounce Hemet with proper disgust tinged with amazement…they left a tropical island paradise for a small dusty town in the California desert? Yeah).
1998 is pretty much just a blur, to be honest. Elliot turned 3 that year and the twins were one. All 3 were in diapers. Do you mean 10 years ago to the day? Cuz I have no idea.
2. What are 5 things on your “To Do” list?
Finish CNED; celebrate in some way
Go swimming
Pack up my house (after returning to it). Have AWESOME garage sale. Want to come?
Spend significant time with my mother
Move to Morocco (which has a whole subset of things underneath it, including finding a house, getting the kids into school there, learning Darija, meeting the neighbours and making new friends, etc)
3. What are 5 snacks you enjoy? (In no specific order)

Chips and salsa (esp. Kettle Tias and Emerald Valley med salsa)
Kettle chips, especially salt and vinegar or Spicy Thai
Dark, dark chocolate, sometimes with orange peel or coffee beans in it
Popcorn
Handfuls of Honey-Nut Cheerios snuck shamefully from the box
4. Name some things you would do if you were a millionaire.
Hire a really good Arabic tutor for Elliot, a professional. Fly them in from Lebanon or someplace like that. Find a better situation for my mother and pay for it. Go shopping. Move to Morocco by cruise ship instead of cramped airplane. Stockpile rice and give it to poor people.
5. Name some places where you’ve lived.
Nouakchott (Mauritania), Chambery (France), Swansea (Wales), Three Hills (Alberta, Canada), Alturas (California, US), Bonney Lake (Washington, US), Tacoma, West Seattle, SE Portland, Tigard. (you should know where Seattle and Portland are)
6. Name some bad habits you have.
I am terminally disorganized and flaky. I have good intentions but then I forget to carry them out. I am hopeless at thank-you notes, follow-up phone calls, and other forms of adulthood. I spend too much time reading/on the computer.
7. Name some jobs you’ve had.
I worked at a Hallmark store in the Tacoma Mall during Christmas breaks from college, during which I was forced against my will to wear an apron that said “Santa’s Helper.” (Woman: Do you work here? Me: Would I be wearing this apron if I didn’t?) That was the only year I sent Christmas cards, so it wasn’t a complete loss (see number 6)
I cleaned houses in college–it paid well and the people I worked for were really nice. I also was a nanny for a while; pay was room, board, and use of a sweet little blue pick-up. Also, I loved the family I worked for.
8. Name those whom you are tagging.
You know, it’s gotten kind of hot here. Some time has passed since I started this; my sister-in-law is doing Spanish with the twins, who are going crazy because it’s 4 now, the time I said they could venture outside into the hot, hot sun. (They inherited my fair skin and light hair yet I could not convince them or my darker husband that even with sunscreen, people that look like us will burn if they go swimming at noon two days in a row) So I want to go swimming now and I don’t feel like tagging anyone. And, quite frankly, even though it means I’ve broken about 3 of the 4 rules, I can’t see what anyone is going to do to enforce it. Not tag me again? Ooooh. I’m quaking in my flip-flops here.

At midnight, I was at the library returning the books they wouldn’t let me renew, since they CLAIMED we had already renewed them 3 times. Whatever, Library. I’m sure it was only twice. And couldn’t they have made an exception for us, since we were leaving?
At 1 a.m., I was online registering Ilsa for summer camp. Ilsa decided in January that she wanted to go to summer camp for the very first time this year, with her best-friend-in-America Mariah. Ilsa gives a stereotypical Jewish mother a run for her money, being an A-class Number-One Nag. I had to forbid her to mention it to me again, under pain of Not getting to go to camp, because otherwise I might have gone insane. She nattered on and on and on about camp and could she go to camp and she’d better save money to buy candy at camp and could she ride horses at camp and Mariah said that at camp this happened and this other thing happened too and was I sure she could go to camp and Mariah wanted to know what week worked best and was I sure that she could go to camp? Cuz she needed to know.
This was January, so I got a little impatient. But we’ve had lots of conversations about it since, and eventually I promised her she could go.
But what with one thing and another, plus my extreme flakiness, I forgot to register her. And it was getting a wee bit late in the year, and I could not even imagine the repercussions if, through my own forgetfulness, she didn’t get to go to camp, ever, in her whole entire childhood. So, at 1 a.m. I got her registered.
At 2 a.m. I finished getting all the CNED stuff ready to mail. On Friday, all 3 kids took 5 tests. But Saturday and Sunday were jam-pack booked; Elliot had no shorts or sandals, for one, and Ilsa had no swimsuit, for another, and I still had only one tshirt, and there’s no sales tax in Oregon but there is in California. Plus we had to be at several social events, including one in which I had to clean my house. So I got all the tests ready to mail and packed them in a bag. I will mail them soon. They are still in the van, outside.
I was mostly packed, so after I had done all these things, I just had to fold one last load of laundry and then I was snug in my bed by 2:30 a.m.
They wanted me to get up at 6:00 a.m. but I didn’t want to. So I didn’t. I was up soon afterwards, eyes sore, head aching, to gulp down some coffee and load up the suitcases.
We only forgot one thing (CD for Elliot’s final music exam, which is missing the piece he is supposed to listen to and write his emotions), but we were finally on the road by 8:30.
Some of you might remember that we usually don’t leave till 10:00, but Monday was different. We had to make it Santa Cruz, a 13 hour drive, by nightfall, where we were to reunite with a friend of ours that we hadn’t seen for 10 years or so.
This was Monday; now it’s Thursday. We spent Tuesday in Santa Cruz, hanging out and getting caught up with Bud. Wednesday we headed down Hwy 1 on our way to Hwy 101, but we missed Salinas, we let it get away (just for you Janis Joplin fans out there, presuming you’re there), and we ended up spending an extra 3 hours on the curves and swerves of that cliff-hugging ribbon of asphalt, the one with the spectacular drop-offs that freaked out my younger son. “I can’t believe they don’t have walls!” he kept exclaiming. “If I was doing it, I’d make a tunnel.”
Sure, why not? One of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the nation, and he’d just hide it away.
The extra time on the slow road meant that we hit LA at rush hour, which is exactly like you would imagine it being. So instead of Wednesday being a day with 6-7 hours in the car, it was a day of 12 hours in the car. Eventually, though, we did arrive. We’re here, in Hemet. We have a suitcase full of CNED stuff to mail, and we still need to finish up a couple of things, but we’re here.

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